An Alternative Interpretation of Statistical Mechanics

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6 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper I propose an interpretation of classical statistical mechanics that centers on taking seriously the idea that probability measures represent complete states of statistical mechanical systems. I show how this leads naturally to the idea that the stochasticity of statistical mechanics is associated directly with the observables of the theory rather than with the microstates (as traditional accounts would have it). The usual assumption that microstates are representationally significant in the theory is therefore dispensable, a consequence which suggests interesting possibilities for developing non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and investigating inter-theoretic answers to the foundational questions of statistical mechanics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Harvey Brown, Craig Callender, Richard Dawid, John Dougherty, Gijs Leegwater, Fred Muller, Patricia Palacios, Anncy Thresher, David Wallace, Stefan Wintein, and Christian Wüthrich for helpful comments and conversations on this paper. I also wish to thank audiences at the Vienna Circle Institute and the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, where some of this material was presented. Finally, I gratefully acknowledge the very helpful comments of three referees.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Logic


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